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the Southerner Online

An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

The Atlanta Leaders for 100% Literacy (ALL) movement, which brings together 139 community members from a range of professions, aims to hire a new superintendent who can intervene with students and improve district literacy rates.
“Atlanta Leaders for 100% Literacy” demands district focus
Shalin BhatiaFebruary 12, 2024

The Atlanta Leaders for 100% Literacy (ALL) movement is urging Atlanta school board members to underscore the urgency of hiring a superintendent...

Student navigates holiday season with unique family

Lily Rachwalski
Children with unique family situations may find the holidays to be a time of sadness, rather than cheer.

The holiday season is typically filled with anticipation and excitement. The thrill of opening gifts, baking winter treats, putting up decorations, seeing loved ones and taking a well-deserved break from school are all experiences that most kids have during this season.

However, when your family dynamic gets shaken up, your feelings regarding the holidays get shaken up, too. 

I was adopted when I was about 8 years old, and my adoptive parents separated when I was 11. I used to love Christmas and the entirety of the holiday season, but everything changed when they split. I lost my favorite aspect of the holidays – having my family together. 

When I was adopted, so much time and stress was put into the creation of my new family’s traditions and holiday dynamic. For a while, I was super happy, especially during the holidays. On Christmas, the three of us would sit around the tree early in the morning, opening gifts and enjoying each other’s company. 

I opened my presents while my parents drank their coffee and watched the excitement in me build up as they sat the next perfectly-wrapped gift down beside me. I loved everything about Christmas. I loved the lights; I loved the gifts, and I loved the food. However, those temporary things weren’t the reason I loved Christmas; the actual reason was being with my family. 

When my parents separated, it wasn’t the three of us sitting around the tree and opening gifts on Christmas morning anymore. It became two of us. I spent Christmas with one side of my family, and then celebrated the following day with the other side of my family. 

The concept of having two Christmases, one with each parent, is exciting at first. The novelty wears off upon realizing what it really means. You have to leave one of your parents for Christmas. I never had a set visitation schedule, but for a while, I had to have two Christmases. After that, I spent Christmas with my primary parent. That doesn’t change the fact that I’m conscious of how few Christmases I’ve spent without my other parent. 

Even now, I still miss spending Christmas as a little family. I don’t wish that they stayed together because that would’ve been horrible for all three of us. I miss how it was before the simple arguments and stress infiltrated the family I perceived as perfect. Having to comprehend that my family wasn’t perfect was really hard on me, and I always thought that since we all put in so much work to create our family, it’d surely last forever. But it didn’t. 

Since I moved to Georgia from Virginia in 2019, more stress has been added to my life during the holidays. My primary parent and I used to drive up to Virginia for Christmas every year after we moved. Being in that town made me remember so many things I wanted to forget.

This year, things will be different. This year is the first time I’ve felt excitement instead of dread for Christmas since I was a kid. 

My family had Christmas in Virginia for a long time, but this holiday season, they are coming to Atlanta. I’ll have all of my favorite family members in one place. What excites me the most is that this year, they’ll all be in the place I’m genuinely able to call home. 

Even though I know I probably won’t see the other side of my family, I’m grateful that I have a family to spend Christmas with. I used to be embarrassed of my family because the holidays made me realize how different I was, but I’ve since come to realize that my differences are what makes me unique. 

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About the Contributors
Stella St. Clair is a sophomore and this is her first year writing for the Southerner. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her friends and family. She also works on Knight View in addition to the Southerner.
Lily Rachwalski, Website Managing Editor
Lily is a junior and is excited to start her third year with the Southerner. Apart from her writing with the Southerner, Lily is a Georgia Scholastic Press Association (GSPA) student ambassador, representing both the Southerner and Georgia journalism as a whole. She is an active member of Latin club and plays ultimate frisbee for both Midtown and cATLanta, Georgia's under-20 club team. In her free time, you can find her hanging out with friends and family.

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